CLEVELAND — Terry Francona set the tone for the Indians’ surprising three-game sweep of the Red Sox in their American League Division Series when he deployed Andrew Miller in the fifth inning in Game 1.
With no disrespect meant to Trevor Bauer, his starter in that game, Francona indicated that a call that early to his most fearsome bullpen arm wasn’t likely in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays on Friday night.
“With [Corey] Kluber pitching, he’s a guy that’s won a Cy Young,” Francona said beforehand. “He has the ability when he gets in a game and gets comfortable, he can go nine.”
It wasn’t quite nine, but it was 6 1⁄3 innings of shutout ball. And with Francisco Lindor hitting a two-run homer off Marco Es trada, the Indians took Game 1, 2-0, in front of 37,272 at Progressive Field.
“If you’re a fan of pitching, it was a dream game for you,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We got some guys on base early, we couldn’t get that big hit. Lindor got the big hit.”
Though Kluber consistently got himself into trouble, he consistently got out of it — Toronto was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position through three innings, stranding five — before giving way to Miller. The former Yankee struck out five in 1 2⁄3 innings and Cody Allen pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
Game 2 is at 4:08 this afternoon as Toronto’s J.A. Happ takes on Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin. Trevor Bauer was to start for the Indians but cut his right pinkie while fixing his personal drone early Friday morning. He needed 10 stitches and now is slated to pitch Game 3 Monday in Toronto.
Kluber allowed six hits and two walks, striking out six. The Blue Jays, who outscored the opposition 27-12 in their first four games of this postseason, went 0-for-5 with RISP and stranded eight (seven against Kluber).
“His breaking ball was at times devastating,” Francona said. “I mean, both pitchers I thought were terrific. Fortunately for us, Lindor got a changeup, and that was the difference in the game.”
Kluber, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2014, was given a 2-0 lead in the sixth when the switch-hitting Lindor, batting lefthanded, drove a 0-and-2 changeup to right-center for his second homer of the postseason. Jason Kipnis preceded the blast by drawing a walk.
“I was trying to stay down and through the baseball, see something higher and stay inside the baseball, and it went out,” Lindor said with a smile. “I celebrated it like a walk-off.”
Estrada, as Francona said, was terrific, allowing two runs, six hits and one walk in eight innings. He struck out six.
After Kluber, who threw seven shutout innings against Boston in Game 2 of the ALDS, retired Kevin Pillar to start the seventh, Francona brought on Miller, who struck out Darwin Barney and Melvin Upton Jr.
Josh Donaldson led off the eighth with a single, but Miller struck out Edwin Encarnacion on a disputed 2-and-2 slider — the first baseman got in the face of plate umpire Laz Diaz but stayed in the game — and then got Jose Bautista and Russell Martin swinging.
Miller is unscored upon in three appearances this postseason, striking out 12 and walking two in 5 2⁄3 innings. Allen has not allowed a run in three appearances and has three saves.
“If we can get deep in a ballgame and get a lead to our bullpen, I feel like we have a really good shot,” Kluber said. “Those guys have all been doing an unbelievable job down there. That’s our game plan, to try and get them a lead and let them go out and do their thing.’’